Who Will Lead Every Major NHL Statistical Category?
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images
The end-of-season awards indicate statistical superiority for the best players in the game.
It may have little to do with who wins the championship. The Los Angeles Kings won the Stanley Cup last season, but Daryl Sutter did not have a scorer in the top 15 of the league.
But here at Bleacher Report, we make predictions. With all teams in the second quarter of the 48-game season, here's our prediction for league leaders in the major statistical categories.
Goals: Steve Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning
Buffalo's Thomas Vanek leads the NHL in goals with 12 through the games of Feb. 18, and James Neal of the Pittsburgh Penguins and John Tavares of the New York Islanders are right behind with 11.
Patrick Marleau of the San Jose Sharks got off to a red-hot start with eight goals in his first four games and he has 10, as does New Jersey's David Clarkson.
Steven Stamkos has nine and is currently tied Patrick Kane of the Blackhawks. However, this is a category that belongs to Stamkos. He has scored 50 or more goals twice in the last three years, including 60 last year.
He may be spotting Vanek a three-goal lead at this point, but he could have the lead in goal scoring in a week or two, perhaps less.
Stamkos has a rocket for a wrist shot and is stellar in the dirty areas when he chooses to go there.
Even in a shortened season, Stamkos has more goal-scoring ability than any player in the league.
No disrespect to Vanek or any of the other goal-scoring leaders, but this is Stamkos' category.
Assists: Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
Sidney Crosby's name is at the top of the assist list already.
He's sharing that position with the very worthy Martin St. Louis of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Henrik Zetterberg of the Detroit Red Wings, Patrik Elias of the New Jersey Devils and Crosby's teammate, Evgeni Malkin, are right behind with 13.
However, Crosby is healthy again and has hit his stride. He has scored seven points in his last three games and 10 points in his last six games. He makes passes and sets up teammates like few others in the game.
Crosby is healthy once again after missing most of the last two seasons with concussion-related issues, and he is asserting himself as one of the league's most dangerous offensive players.
Points: Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
Sidney Crosby has topped the 100-point mark four times in his career and he has one scoring championship on his resume.
He's not going to top 100 points in a shortened season, but he has an excellent chance of leading the league in scoring again.
As of the games completed Feb. 18, Thomas Vanek leads the league with 25 points. Vanek is a highly skilled player who already has two five-point games to his credit this year. He is a worthy competitor to Crosby, who has scored 24 points.
However, it seems to be a big reach to think that Vanek is going to give Crosby a run for his money as the league's leading scorer by the end of the season.
Crosby seems to bring his A-game nearly every night. When Vanek brings his, he is a brilliant player. However, he seems to float many nights, and that's why Crosby has a decided edge.
By the end of the season, Evgeni Malkin is likely to give Crosby a run for his money. John Tavares of the New York Islanders and Martin St. Louis may also be near the top.
Plus/Minus: Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks
This is a category that is almost certainly going to be won by a player from one of the dominant teams in the league.
When your team is winning consistently and doing it by significant margins, you are going to have a good chance of being on the ice for a lot more goals than your team gives up. If your team scores the majority of its goals in non-power play situations, your plus/minus numbers are going to be stellar.
As of the games completed through Feb. 18, defenseman Francois Beauchemin of the Anaheim Ducks is leading the league with a plus-14, and teammate Sheldon Souray is right behind at plus-13. Shockingly, defenseman Mark Fraser of the surprising Toronto Maple Leafs is also a plus-13.
The Ducks and Leafs have both gotten off to amazing starts, but no team has gotten off like the Chicago Blackhawks, who take a 12-0-3 record into their Feb. 19 game against the Vancouver Canucks.
The Blackhawks seem to be a more dangerous and consistent team than the Ducks or the Leafs, and the belief here is that Jonathan Toews is likely to lead the league in plus/minus by the end of the season.
Toews is plus-10 and is one of the most consistent players in the league. He is very serious about his defensive play and his ability to win faceoffs often gives the offensive-minded Hawks possession of the puck with a chance to make a scoring play.
Look for Toews to record the league's best plus/minus figure in the league this year.
Goals-Against Average: Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators
Pekka Rinne has been one of the best goalies in the NHL over the last four years.
He has played at least 52 games per season for the Preds since the 2008-09 season. The Predators have always been a defensive-minded team, and Rinne has held up his end. He was a second-team All-Star in 2010-11.
As good as Rinne has been, he is even better this season. Rinne has a 1.58 goals-against average and a .938 save percentage.
Craig Anderson of the Ottawa Senators and Roberto Luongo of the Vancouver Canucks are right behind Rinne in GAA, but this appears to be Rinne's title to win.
Other goalies who may be in contention in this category include Corey Crawford of the Chicago Blackhawks, Viktor Fasth of the Anaheim Ducks, Ben Scrivens of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Antti Niemi of the San Jose Sharks.
Goalie Wins: Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins
This category will almost certainly be the domain of a goalie from one of the top teams in the league.
As of the games played through Feb. 18, Viktor Fasth of the Anaheim Ducks, Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens and Marc-Andre Fleury of the Pittsburgh Penguins lead the league with eight wins each.
Tuukka Rask and six other goalies are tied with seven wins. While Fasth's and Price's teams have gotten off to stellar starts, its difficult to see the Ducks and Canadiens keeping up their current level of productivity.
The Penguins should, but the belief here is that Rask is better and more consistent than Fleury, and that will end up giving him the victory in the goalie wins category.